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Mol Endocrinol. 2012 May;26(5):762-74. doi: 10.1210/me.2011-1208. Epub 2012 Mar 22.

Palmitoylation regulates 17β-estradiol-induced estrogen receptor-α degradation and transcriptional activity.

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Department of Biology, University Roma Tre, I-00146, Rome, Italy.


The estrogen receptor-α (ERα) is a transcription factor that regulates gene expression through the binding to its cognate hormone 17β-estradiol (E2). ERα transcriptional activity is regulated by E2-evoked 26S proteasome-mediated ERα degradation and ERα serine (S) residue 118 phosphorylation. Furthermore, ERα mediates fast cell responses to E2 through the activation of signaling cascades such as the MAPK/ERK and phosphoinositide-3-kinase/v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog 1 pathways. These E2 rapid effects require a population of the ERα located at the cell plasma membrane through palmitoylation, a dynamic enzymatic modification mediated by palmitoyl-acyl-transferases. However, whether membrane-initiated and transcriptional ERα activities integrate in a unique picture or represent parallel pathways still remains to be firmly clarified. Hence, we evaluated here the impact of ERα palmitoylation on E2-induced ERα degradation and S118 phosphorylation. The lack of palmitoylation renders ERα more susceptible to E2-dependent degradation, blocks ERα S118 phosphorylation and prevents E2-induced ERα estrogen-responsive element-containing promoter occupancy. Consequently, ERα transcriptional activity is prevented and the receptor addressed to the nuclear matrix subnuclear compartment. These data uncover a circuitry in which receptor palmitoylation links E2-dependent ERα degradation, S118 phosphorylation, and transcriptional activity in a unique molecular mechanism. We propose that rapid E2-dependent signaling could be considered as a prerequisite for ERα transcriptional activity and suggest an integrated model of ERα intracellular signaling where E2-dependent early extranuclear effects control late receptor-dependent nuclear actions.

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